|MadSci Network: Agricultural Sciences|
Dear Angelia That's a very broad question, and very interesting. Kind of like "how long is a piece of string?". Essentially, I suppose, agricultural sciences are using scientific methods to improve agriculture. But the actual jobs are very wide indeed. Breeding is important, for animals and plants. That involves selecting parents with particular qualities that you are interested in and then selecting the offspring that fit the goals. It can be very time-consuming to make an improved variety or breed. Wheat breeders, for example, might have to examine hundreds of thousands of plants to find one with the qualities they are looking for. Animal breeders do similar sorts of exercises, coming up with new breeds that maybe grow more quickly, or are less susceptible to stress. Production scientists, sometimes called agronomists, work to improve whole farming systems. So, for example, they might do experiments to find out whether different coloured plastic mulches give higher yields of tomatoes. Or whether milking cows three times a day is better than once or twice. Some agricultural scientists specialize in working with farmers to control pests and diseases in different ways. Some prefer to use synthetic chemicals, other like biological control, and some work to help farmers be organic. There are agricultural economists who work out how farmers can make a better or more reliable profit. Lots of agricultural scientists work as extension agents, making sure that the research that their colleagues have done is used and understood by real farmers. Many work in developing countries to improve food production there. Some of them might even be writers, like me, just trying to spread the word. These are just some ideas that came to me. I've probably left out lots of possibilities. You could take a look here or there for some other ideas. Thanks for giving me a nice break in a busy day. Jeremy
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